Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / September 1970

September 1970: The Office of Telecommunications Becomes a Primary Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce

Watch the film on the ITS YouTube Channel.

The origins of the Institute of Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) date to the early years of the 20th century and the Radio Section of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC). The NBS Radio Section was founded prior to World War I and played a leading role in the evolution of the understanding of radio propagation—how radio waves travel in space. In 1946, the Radio Section was absorbed into a new radio-centric NBS division called the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL).

In 1965, CRPL was re-assigned to the new Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA)—which would later become NOAA—and renamed the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences and Aeronomy. Two years later, the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences was separated from Aeronomy to focus exclusively on Telecommunications, alongside a new Office of Telecommunications (OT) within ESSA. In 1970, the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP) was established in the Executive Office of the President, OT was removed from ESSA and established as a primary operating unit within the DoC, and ITS became part of OT. This film, to be shown on television, explains this reorganization as a function of the need for more specialized and extensive research to ensure the most efficient use of the increasingly crowded spectrum and the continued evolution of telecommunications for the benefit of all mankind.

In 1978, OTP and OT were merged, creating the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the DoC. Today, ITS continues to provide the research to support NTIA as it manages federal use of spectrum for mission-critical communications while finding ways to increase commercial use of this increasingly crowded resource.